"We have a lot of new players and we are working on different things," Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke said after Village Christian posted a 54-39 victory. "We want to get them all up to speed and see what they can do."
The teams split a pair of games last season. Renaissance topped Village Christian, 60-44, in the Burbank Tournament before winning the CIF Southern Section Division VI title. However, Village Christian posted a 58-57 victory at Colony High in the state playoffs last season en route to winning the state final.
The Wildcats are noticeably different with the losses of Jessy Cantinol, Vince de Guzman and Troy Fontanilla to graduation. Cooke said Thursday that wing Yendra Magloire and guard Nicolas Troplent are not on the team right now because Cooke said they are "exploring other options at some bigger schools."
Cooke said the Wildcats will move on while the duo mulls over its options.
"We have six or seven guys right now who are learning our system," said Cooke, who only had six players compete Thursday. "We are working on things like coming off screens.
"When we run our stuff right, we can score. We had several opportunities to score, but couldn't convert. I also think our guys just ran out of gas."
Renaissance (26-8 last season) received 13 points from Clark Thomas, 12 from Matthew Der and 11 from Marquise Mosley on Thursday.
Der, a guard, transferred from Temple City after serving as a reserve for the Rams. With Troplent's status unclear, Der said he's using the summer to get up to speed with an eye on cracking the starting lineup next season.
"Shooting and passing are my strengths," said Der, who scored sixth first-quarter points. "It's about working well together and building chemistry.
"It's my seventh game with the team and I'm learning. We were in the game and we had a couple of breakdowns."
Der scored on a reverse layup with seven seconds left in the first quarter to give the Wildcats a 10-8 lead.
"I like his tenacity," Cooke said.
Village Christian began to heat up in the second quarter with Bryan Alberts scoring six points to give the Crusaders a 25-21 halftime advantage.
Alberts made a three-pointer to extend Village Christian's lead to 30-21 with 8:38 left in the third quarter. Renaissance got a three-pointer of its own from Thomas to trim the deficit to 33-28 with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Alberts made another three-pointer with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter to give the Crusaders a 40-28 lead. Renaissance could get no closer than 46-36 on a bank shot by Mosley with 4:46 remaining.
The Crusaders got a game-high 14 points from Alberts and 13 from Bijon Isles.